A goal in Google Analytics is triggered when a user visits a page, makes a purchase, downloads a file, etc., based on what you set up in the Admin section of GA. Even if your site doesn’t allow people to purchase products, setting up goals like viewing your contact us page, downloading a PDF, or visiting a large number of pages can help you see the subset of website visitors who are highly engaged.
But the really cool thing is that once goals are set up, you have access to the Multi-Channel Funnel reports in GA (find them in the Conversions section of Google Analytics). These reports will tell you information about users across their multiple visits to your website. How many times did they visit before hitting one of your goals? What was the time lag between that first visit and a conversion? And what different ways did the user get to your website on each of those visits?
We often use the source of the traffic to help determine the ROI on different forms of marketing. If we spent $5,000 in paid search last month, how many transactions and how much revenue was driven as a result? What percentage of the traffic that came through display media converted by visiting the contact us page or printing out a coupon? Looking at the source or medium for each transaction or goal tells you how the visitor came to your site on the visit they converted. But that’s only part of the story.
A recent analysis of multiple-visit traffic on a client’s website showed that in 44% of conversions, the source of the traffic on the visit that converted was different than the source on the first visit. That means nearly half the time, the “source” of your goal conversion isn’t what you may be thinking it is. Analyzing this data can show you what types of sources tend to attract new traffic and what types of sources tend to help visitors along the path to conversion. For this customer, we found that search (organic and paid), referral, and email are more often found in the first visits than the last visits—which means that those mediums may not be getting proper credit for the conversions they support.
Learn more with these resources about using Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels:
- A SlideShare overview of what Multi-Channel Funnels are and where to find the reports in Google Analytics.
- Using Multi-Channel Funnels to better understand the value of social media.
- Using Multi-Channel Funnels to analyze website content in the buying cycle.
We’ve long held the belief that bidding on your brand terms in paid search advertising is inadvisable for most advertisers. In order to make your marketing dollars work hardest, we reason, why pay for users who are already aware of your business? Instead, use paid search advertising to attract new prospects who were searching for your service category and don’t already have you in mind.
But a recent analysis of multi-visit data for one of our clients has us rethinking that blanket statement. Our customer, a large retailer with locations throughout the Midwest, has great brand recognition. We found that 73% of the visits that happened before a conversion included at least one branded search, and 14% of the paths to conversion were all and only branded search.
With so many customers converting after searching for the brand name, perhaps paid search advertising on your own brand keywords is a great opportunity to get prospects to convert faster, by providing them with your marketing message right before they enter the door of your website. Bid on your brand keywords, and you get one more billboard to throw a message at them before they visit your website. Would a special offer entice them to go from browsing to buying? Now’s the time to try it.
So our advice is evolving. Here’s what it looks like now:
Don’t bid on your own brand keywords if:
- You have limited marketing funds. You want to use those dollars to attract new customers who don’t already have you in mind.
Consider bidding on your own brand keywords if:
- Your competition is bidding on your brand keywords and you want to counteract that effect.
- The organic search results for your brand don’t show stellar results, for example bad news or a complaint website appears on the first page of results. Having a paid search ad will push those results farther down the page and possibly under the searcher’s radar.
- There are multiple companies with similar names to yours, or your business name is easy to misspell, and you want to make it easier for prospects and customers to find the right website by having a search result you control completely.
- (new!) You can influence the time-to-purchase by sharing a marketing message before users visit your website. Or you want to promote something special that’s going on at your company, like an event or a sale.
As with so much of online marketing, there isn’t one simple answer that applies to all situations. What do you think? What factors have you used in deciding whether or not to bid on brand keywords?
Can engagement metrics be used as a proxy for conversion rate when optimizing advertising campaigns?
When we manage advertising campaigns, whether they be in Google AdWords, Facebook or elsewhere, we strive to drive a many leads or sales as possible. Doing this usually includes setting bids or budgets based on an expected conversion rate. For example, if keyword A converts at twice the rate of keyword B, we should be willing to pay twice as much for keyword A. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea.
Ideally, we have enough historical data for keywords A and B to derive accurate conversion rate estimates, but this is often not the case. One of the techniques we use when we are short on data is to look at an engagement metric as a proxy for conversion rate, the idea being that engaged visitors are more likely to convert. Engagement metrics such as time on site, page views per visit and bounce rate are built in to Google Analytics, so are often available when conversion data is insufficient. The other good thing about engagement data is that it accumulates a lot faster than conversion data. For example, after 100 visits you can probably get a decent estimate of average visit duration, while 100 visits will result in a very small number of conversions for most advertisers, not enough to make a good estimate.
We’ve been optimizing with engagement metrics for a while, but had never properly validated which metrics work best. A few days ago, while building an optimization model for a client, I decided it was time to rectify this. Below are the results of my analysis.
A Correlation Between Engagement Metrics and Conversion Rate for 10 Advertisers
The ten advertisers I selected span a range of verticals. The numerical fields represent the correlation between the metric at the top of the column and conversion rate. The metric with the highest correlation has been highlighted for each advertiser. I looked at the 10 highest-volume keywords for each advertiser to do the correlation. For example, for Advertiser 1′s top ten keywords, Pages/Visit and conversion rate have a correlation of 0.781. Measurements of correlation range between -1 and 1. A correlation of 1 means that two sets of values correlate perfectly. If I know one value, I can infer the other. A correlation of -1 also means that two values correlate perfectly, but one goes up while the other goes down. In the data I collected, bounce rate generally has a negative correlation to conversion rate, because a lower bounce rate means higher engagement. A correlation of 0 means that two values don’t correlate at all. Knowing one tells me nothing about the other. Correlations close to zero generally mean that two sets of data have no relationship, while correlations close to 1 or -1 imply a strong relationship.
What do my results mean?
The main things I learned from my analysis were that engagement does tend to correlate to conversion rate, and that no single metric correlates best. I was hoping to find that one of the metrics I chose would consistently have the strongest correlation, but no joy. For the most part, Pages/Visit and Visit Duration correlate about the same, but sometimes one or the other correlates much better. In a few cases bounce rate correlated best, but in others bounce rate didn’t correlate at all. Based on my analysis, Pages/Visit is the best proxy for conversion rate, but my sample is too small to say this conclusively. Going forward, I plan on doing an analysis like this for each advertiser we work with before deciding which metric to use as a proxy. If I have insufficient conversion data, I’ll use Pages/Visit.
In the cases where overall correlation was low, one of two things tended to be the case:
- I didn’t have statistically significant conversion data. In all cases I had tens of thousands of clicks to analyze, but even that was not enough to derive a statistically significant estimate of conversion rate for some advertiser keywords.
- There were multiple paths to conversion with varying complexity. For example, if some visitors convert on a landing page, and others convert after navigating through a site, engagement will not correlate very well to conversion rate.
I did also exclude a few advertisers where engagement and conversion rate didn’t correlate at all. Below are two different advertisers, and visualizations of the correlation between Pages/Visit (the X axis) and conversion rate (the Y axis) for each. For the advertiser on the left, conversion rate tends to go up as Pages/Visit goes up. For the advertiser on the right, there appears to be no relationship between the two.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on engagement as a proxy for conversion rate, and any other tricks you have for optimizing when conversion data is sparse.
Nico Brooks is a data geek who struggles to get his head around marketing problems, but he always enjoys the struggle. Two Octobers is an internet marketing company that provides digital marketing services with a strong focus on data-driven optimization and measurable results.
Link building, as the process is called, can be done in a variety of ways along the spectrum of white hat (good guy) and black hat (bad guy). White-hat SEO techniques tend to leverage and expand upon a business’s other marketing, PR, social media, and content development efforts. Black-hat SEO methods include things like purchasing large volumes of links on irrelevant sites, or posting low-quality content with links to your site on lots of different sites. Black hat techniques have the “advantage” of being fairly hands-off for the business, “solving” the ranking problem by throwing money at it. But the search engines hate this sort of thing, and are always working on ways to discount these techniques.
So what’s a good guy to do? Build links the old-fashioned way, by earning them. And there are a thousand ways of doing this. Get a mention in the online press. Create good content on a blog that people want to link to. Contribute an article to someone else’s blog and have it link back to your site. Provide a cool badge for your sales partners to put on their site that links back to you. I could go on, and on, and on. But I don’t have to.
Jon Cooper at Point Blank SEO has created an exhaustive list of techniques for encouraging links to your site. And what’s particularly awesome about this list is that it’s filterable—by the value of the link, the time to execute, and the dependency on other company resources. This is a great list to review if you’re thinking of investing some time in link-building yourself or if you want to understand what a hired SEO will (or should) be doing, and why SEO services are so expensive. Kudos Jon, for a great list.
By default, Google Analytics track how visitors came to your site via three channels, called “Mediums”: direct, referrals, and search (organic or paid). It also tracks which site the user came from, called “Source”, for referrals (i.e. Facebook.com or YourPartner.com) and search (Google, Bing, Ask, etc.).
That said, any link to your website that you control can include some additional tags to tell Google Analytics how to classify the traffic in more detail.
Here are some great places to use tagged links.
- Email Newsletter. Your email software will tell you click through rates, but won’t tell you what users do after they’re on your website. Did they actually buy the product you were promoting? Did your article make them read more of your blog posts?
- Twitter & Facebook Links. Including a tagged URL on a social media site allows you to see which post triggered the link and likewise how engaged the traffic was.
- Display Ads. Add tags to the end of your click-through URL and Google Analytics will tell you which ad creative generated the traffic with the best conversion rate on your site.
- Paid Search Advertising in Bing. Google Analytics automatically captures campaign and keyword data from AdWords when your Analytics and AdWords accounts are linked, so no need to make manual adjustments there. But if you’re advertising in Bing, you’ll need to append the tags in order to track performance by keyword.
- Offline marketing. Track traffic from offline marketing too. Create a new short URL for your website, say mywebsite.com/spring and redirect it to a longer, tagged URL. The data won’t be complete (some people will just go to your home page), but nevertheless it’s helpful for measuring the relative web traffic from various offline sources.
How to Create Tagged Links
Google offers a handy tool for creating the variables that go at the end of your website URL to make this all work. The tool looks like this:
- Enter the URL of the page you want to target traffic to (for example, the continuation of a newsletter article, a blog post, a landing page).
- Enter your tag values (aka variables). Think through how you might use the tags across different marketing campaigns, then be consistent in your usage.
- Generate the URL and paste it into your marketing piece.
|what||description||email newsletter example||twitter example||print ad example|
|Campaign Source||Equivalent to the website name for referral traffic. What is the name of the website, network, publisher where the click originated?||eNewsletter||twitter.com||association-Newsletter|
|Campaign Medium||Equivalent to referral or organic. Which communication medium was used?||social||printNewsletter|
|Campaign Term||Used only for the keyword in search advertising.|
|Campaign Content||The ad’s creative, useful if you’re testing two different versions or have two audience segments||widgetArticle||visitOurBooth||20off|
|Campaign Name||The umbrella name for your marketing campaign. For example if your new widget product launch includes display ads and email newsletter, you can view the overall impact.||May||x-trade-show||springSale|
How to View the Data in GA
After you’ve tagged a URL and started getting traffic to it, view basic metrics like pageviews and pages/visit in Traffic Sources>Sources>All. The default view shows sources and mediums, including any custom source and medium values you tagged.
To view other values, next to Primary Dimension, click Other and then under the Traffic Sources heading, select which data you’d like to view, for example Campaign (Campaign Name) or Ad Content (Campaign Content). To see even more data, set up an Advanced Segment to view Google Analytics data just for the visitors who, for example, came by way of an email newsletter.
Voila! You can now track the number of visits generated by various marketing sources, plus how engaged they were and how many conversions they produced. Was that advertising investment worth it? Now you know.
Intention – before a person searches, she has an intent: intent to buy a pair of shoes; intent to learn about zanzibar; intent to determine the health benefits of a Blooming Onion; and so on. Some sort of information need driven by intention motivates her to search. When we start a search marketing campaign for a business, we begin by defining personae we intend to target with the campaign. The personae represent categories of intent. For example, shoe-shopping personae might include fashionistas and pragmatists. Fashionistas want to know what’s hot, pragmatists want a trustworthy vendor with a good return policy. We tend to organize our campaigns around the personae we define.
Search – once the person has translated intent into an information need, e.g. “I want a new pair of shoes” -> “where should I buy a pair of shoes?”, she turns to a search engine. While this step in the process garners a lot of attention among marketers, it is largely procedural in nature. Search listings do not address the searcher’s intent (you can’t wear them, for example), nor do they meet her information need in any real sense. They are merely pointers to information. The searcher quickly scans search results, looking for cues that indicate her need will be met by clicking on a listing. The right cues to include are a natural consequence of the personae we’ve defined. We also have to be mindful that there is a lot of information on a search results page. We can provide the right cues, but if our listing is boring or far down the results, it may never get evaluated.
Consideration – after clicking on a listing, the searcher evaluates the content on the landing page. Does it address her information need? She has criteria, conscious or unconscious, with which she will make a quick decision and either move forward or back up. The important thing here is to make sure that the landing page aligns with her original intent and is easy to digest. Too much information and she is likely to back up and look for a more suitable source. Too little information and her criteria can’t possibly be met.
Action – lastly, as marketers, we want the searcher to take some form of action, whether it be to call a number, watch a video or buy a product. Again, it is not a good idea to overwhelm the searcher with too many options, nor is it a good idea to present too few. Some people may be uncomfortable calling and prefer to communicate via email. Some people may want to read technical specifications before buying a product. The main thing is to decide what actions you want to emphasize, and make them as frictionless as possible.
This model bears a lot of similarity to the classic purchase funnel found in many marketing textbooks. It can be viewed as a specific instance of the funnel, applied to search marketing. I find it helpful, but the main point is that different types of keywords and search phrases belie different kinds of intent. When focusing on one stage of the process independently, it can be easy to lose track of that fact.
Nico Brooks is a data geek who struggles to get his head around marketing problems, but he always enjoys the struggle. Two Octobers is an internet marketing company that provides marketing services and strategic consulting to businesses selling to local markets.
Does offering a deal attract new customers? Yes.
A poll of consumers by customer satisfaction firm Foresee Results found that 31% of deal shoppers were new customers. Respondents to the Foresee poll described themselves as:
- Frequent Customers – 38%
- Infrequent Customers – 27%
- Former Customers – 4%
- New Customers – 31%
In another study of businesses by Utpal M. Dholakia of Rice University, respondents indicated that fully 80% of deal buyers were new. Perhaps the discrepancy is one of perception, Dholakia’s study polled businesses, while Foresee polled consumers. Business owners may perceive all but the most frequent of customers as new, while in fact the number of deal buyers that have never tried a business before is much lower. Either way, the majority of deal buyers are not regular customers, and a solid percentage are brand new.
After purchasing a deal, do consumers come back? Not really.
Businesses, according to Dholakia’s study, say that only 20% of consumers return to a business after cashing in on a deal. On the other hand, consumers say that they will return. In a survey of consumers by Lightspeed Research, 65% of deal buyers said they had returned to businesses. The discrepancy can be explained by the fact that consumers return to some of the businesses they visit, but not all. Factors such as quality of service, location and price presumably influence their likelihood to return.
Does my target customer purchase deals? Probably not.
According to the Foresee study, deal purchasers are reasonably distributed across age ranges and income levels, with a skew towards women (59%). But a recent AdWeek/Harris Poll broad sample of all consumers found that 20% of respondents had purchased deals on occasion, and only 4% had purchased deals frequently. 48% knew about daily deals, but hadn’t purchased one. This points to the fact that deal shoppers are a small subset of consumers overall. Deals are a good (perhaps necessary) way to reach that subset, but most of your target market doesn’t buy deals.
How will offering a deal affect my bottom line? Positively, if you do your homework.
Dholakia’s study found that 56% of businesses made money when offering a deal. That means they not only gained some new, long-term customers and built awareness, but they actually made money in the process. The factors contributing to success or failure vary widely by industry and the particulars of a deal being offered, but we’ve tried to identify some of the more important ones below.
So, do daily deals work? It’s a coin toss.
In the minds of businesses who’ve done daily deals, it’s pretty divided. A MerchantCircle study found that 77% of businesses who’ve tried deals plan to offer one again, while only 48% of Dholakia’s respondents answered such. MerchantCircle members tend to be online-savvy, while Dholokia took pains to gather a broad sample, which may explain the difference.
It’s early days yet for daily deals, but on the whole businesses’ experiences have been neutral or positive. Merchants are still learning how deals fit in to their marketing, and how to structure deals so they don’t break the bank. There is also more competition between deal providers, which will be good for both consumers and businesses in the long run. It is worth noting that consumers have no particular loyalty to Groupon or LivingSocial, and many local or niche deal providers are offering better terms to businesses. For now, Groupon and LivingSocial will reach more consumers, but you may actually be better off starting out with a deal vendor that has less reach. The worst horror stories tend to involve massive numbers of deals being redeemed at unprofitable rates. It is a good idea not to bet the farm on your first deal, as you are likely to learn valuable lessons that will help you structure and target future deals.
Here are some of the factors that lead to deal success:
- Give consumers a reason to come back. Provide great service, great products and/or an innovative new offering and they are likely to come back again and again, and pay full price.
- Tie a deal to a new product or service. Since many deal purchasers will already be familiar with your business, this is a way to get more value from them as well as new customers.
- Time your deal in the off season. If your business experiences seasonal ups and downs, do a deal when you are likely to break even or lose money anyway.
- Structure your offer so that consumers are likely to spend a lot more than the value of a deal. The economics get a lot better for you if people end up purchasing 2X or 3X the face value of the coupon.
- Fixed costs are high. Businesses who have high fixed costs and low incremental costs per customer are finding deals very effective.
Some good articles/resources on the topic:
- Doing the Math on a Groupon Deal, Jay Goltz, New York Times. Describes in detail the economic factors that determine deal success, with examples.
- Grouponomics, Felix Salmon, Reuters. Discusses the business model of Groupon as well as its effectiveness for merchants.
- How Businesses Fare With Daily Deals: A Multi-Site Analysis of Groupon, LivingSocial, OpenTable, Travelzoo, and BuyWithMe Promotions, Utpal M. Dholakia, Rice University. This is an absolute must-read for anyone looking to understand deal economics for businesses.
- Is Groupon Bad for Small Business?, Vinicius Vacanti, TechCrunch – a level-headed view of deal economics, with tips for how to structure deals.
- Daily Deal Calculator – great tool for calculating deal profitability, from deal aggregator Yipit.
Nico Brooks is a data geek who struggles to get his head around marketing problems, but he always enjoys the struggle. Two Octobers is an internet marketing company that provides marketing services and strategic consulting to businesses selling to local markets. We wrote this because we are in the business of helping marketers make prioritization decisions based on data. We hope it is helpful and would love to hear your comments!
- Quit your day job and try to become more like the person giving the advice, spending most of your waking hours trolling the web and relentlessly tinkering.
- Pay someone a lot of money. There are low-cost link-building services, but they generally result in low-value and sometimes even harmful links. The people I know who do link-building well charge thousands of dollars.
This checklist is aimed at small/medium business (SMB) owners and marketers who can’t afford to spend too much time or money, but don’t want to ignore this important aspect of search engine optimization (SEO).
We recommend that you pick a few tactics from this list, and try them out over the next month. And do the same the following month and so on. If you want immediate results, you’ll need to do a lot quickly, but a slow and steady approach will also pay off nicely over time.
Here are the tactics, with full descriptions below:
- Publicize events
- Do good
- Create some link bait
- Be social
- Write guest articles/guest posts
- Get reviews
- Get links from friends and partners
- List your business in online directories
Most of the items on this list will help market your business in other ways. We deliberately favored multi-purpose tactics, since SMB’s are always looking to maximize bang-for-buck. One tactic is not included on the list above, but applies to everything here and should be ingrained in your behavior: always include a link to your site in everything you do online: in signature lines, in comments, in profiles on social sites, in mentions of your business, etc. Always.
1. Publicize events
Promoting events is a great way to get links, since many sites maintain calendars of local or topical events. If you hold workshops, parties, demos/presentations or any other business-related events, make sure to publicize them on the web. Zvents.com is a good way to get your event listed in many places, since Zvents listings are distributed all over the web. Meetup.com is another great way to create awareness about your event, and includes tools that enable participants to share events with their friends. Also, look for local news and topical sites that post events – even if you think it’s a long shot that you will get attendees, it counts as a link!
There are thousands of websites that aggregate local and topical news, and news search engines such as Google News are on the lookout for news content. Anything you do of interest to your customers or community can be released as a press release and will get you links. More newsworthy content is, of course, more likely to get picked up by journalists, so it’s best to use this tactic when you have something really worth talking about. Traditionally, PR was mostly done by PR firms, but many businesses now work directly with online PR services such as PR Newswire and Marketwire. The latter are less expensive than working with a firm, but you get what you pay for. A local PR firm will have contacts with local media, so should be able to get you better exposure than a distribution service. A good PR firm will also help with PR strategy, articulating what is newsworthy about your business. But most of the online services will also help write press releases, and cost a few hundred dollars versus thousands for hiring a firm.
3. Do good
People like to sing the praises of individuals and companies that do good. For example, a search for pages in Google with the words “Avon” and “breast cancer” returns almost 3 million results. Pick a cause and promote it on your site and through ads, Facebook, newsletters, networking and any other channels you can use to get the word out. Getting people to link to your “about us” page is hard. Getting them to link to a video promoting a cause is relatively easy.
4. Create some link bait
This linking business is all well and good, but what are you linking to? A services page with more or less the same description as a thousand other businesses? The most cost effective way to get links in the long term is to make people want to link to your site. Content that encourages links is called link bait. Strategies for link baiting include:
- Free stuff – give away anything of value and people will start linking. Virtual goods with no incremental cost to you per download are the best way to do this, e.g. mp3’s, software/games, ebooks, etc.
- Shocking or funny content – do you know anyone who can do something remarkable? I have a friend who used to be able to play Stairway to Heaven with a piccolo recorder stuck in his nose. Today he would be a YouTube star. There are quite a few examples of methods businesses have used to create viral content, check them out.
- Authoritative lists – are you an expert in something? Don’t just talk about it, turn it in to a list. For whatever reason, lists tend to capture web users’ interests much more than narrative text.
- Research – conduct or sponsor research relevant to your business/industry. People love to quote statistics on the web and even niche research tends to get a lot of play.
5. Be social
Find blogs related to your business, follow them and make comments when you have something to say. Do the same with discussion forums, Facebook pages, articles and any other social content being published on the web. Most of the time, links in comments are not actually worth as much to search engines, but the author will often follow the link to see who you are, and may link to you directly now or later. And be cautious with criticism and generous with praise. Critical comments will rarely make you friends, while a little praise goes a long way. Someone who has taken the time to write a blog post is eager for affirmation, and will be positively disposed towards people who show it.
Here are some tools to help you find and monitor for topics of interest to your business: 5 Great Free Reputation Management Tools for Local Business
6. Write guest articles/guest posts
People who maintain industry news sites or blogs are often receptive to contributed content, particularly if your point of view complements theirs. If you know of a site where you might be able to contribute, send them a note and see if they might be interested. Make sure to praise their writing, and give a few examples of the articles you are thinking about writing.
7. Get reviews
We love reviews for a lot of reasons, one of them being that they can be a great source of links. If reviews are relevant to your business (and they are to most), they are also an important source of customer feedback. If your customers make appointments, send them a follow up email with a link to Yelp, Citysearch or other sites and ask them to give you a review. If they come in to your shop, do the same on a sign, or have your staff ask them in person.
8. Get links from friends and partners
One very basic way to get links is to ask for them. Some vendors will automatically link to their customers, but many won’t. Ask vendors and partners to link to you, and don’t be afraid to ask customers either. If you have loyal customers, there’s nothing wrong with letting them know that you appreciate links. One thing to keep in mind: reciprocated links are worth less than unreciprocated links. So while trading links with partners is an equitable approach, it will benefit you less with search engines.
One good way to get links through business relationships is to publish or participate in case studies. If you produce your own case studies, make sure to mention vendors and other business that contributed to your own success, and let them know that they were mentioned. They are likely to mention (and link to) the case study themselves. And if you think you would make a good case study for a vendor, let them know, and even consider offering to help write it.
9. List your business in online directories
This is one of the oldest tactics for link building, but it is still very effective, especially for local businesses. Here is a list of sites that provide free business listings, as well as a couple of services that syndicate listings to many other sites: Top 10 Free Places to List Your Business
Remember, you don’t have to do everything on this list! Hopefully, a few of these tactics strike you as a good fit for your business and it’s perfectly fine if others don’t. The goal is to find a sustainable approach to acquiring links that doesn’t take too much of your time.
A few helpful resources:
- 101 Ways to Build Link Popularity A much more extensive list of link building tactics. Also includes a list of tactics to avoid.
- What is Link Building? Strategies & Examples This article from SEOmoz does a great job of explaining why links are important.
- Yahoo Site Explorer A very handy tool for keeping track of who is linking to you (or your competitors).
Are there tactics you’ve used to get links? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!
As a long-time paid search advertiser, I’ve had to do as much unlearning as learning as I’ve gotten up to speed on Facebook advertising. In paid search, the key to success can be summed up in three words (to paraphrase the cliched real estate adage):
relevancy, relevancy, relevancy
This is in part because AdWords and other paid search systems reward relevancy in ads, moving them up the results. It is also due to the state of mind of the searcher. A person using a search engine is purposeful. She is looking for the answer to some form of question, and does not want to be distracted by superfluous jabber. A well-placed ad that answers her question will perform well, while an ad unrelated to her query will not.
In contrast, relevancy is relatively unimportant with Facebook ads. The mechanics of Facebook advertising do not reward relevancy as Google does. And a Facebook user is much less directed than a search engine user. People don’t go to Facebook to do anything in particular, and so are open to distraction. This means that advertisements that are distracting rather than useful can be very effective.
Take, for example, the raging advertising battle between LivingSocial and Groupon going on in Facebook. They are direct competitors, both running the exact same pointless ads.
I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to “do” in either case, but the truth is much more mundane. With the real deals running today on Groupon and Living Social, I can go bowling or take a three hour walking tour of Denver.
Given my long-ingrained bias towards relevancy, I assumed these guys didn’t know what they were doing. I figured they were just aiming for high traffic numbers like the naïve search advertisers of the early days, without regard for ROI. But recently I’ve started working on some big Facebook campaigns, and recognize the merits of their approach.
Shoot for High Click Through, Low Cost Ads
Facebook ads with higher click through rates cost less and get better placement. Really high click through rates can lead to very low click costs. For example, we have run two ads in the same campaign for the same advertiser, one informational and the other sensational, and the former costs about $2 per click, while the latter costs about $0.20. In Google, cost differences often correlate to the revenue potential of keywords. Some of the most expensive keywords in Google are expensive because they tend to lead to high-dollar sales. But the same cannot be said of Facebook.
Facebook ads rarely lead to direct sales. If your goal is to sell products, Facebook ads will probably disappoint. If, on the other hand, your goal is to form relationships with potential customers, Facebook can be very effective. And we have found that ads that speak to emotion lead to connections, while ads that speak to reason do not. Also, on the whole, ads that have high click through rates also tend to lead to connections. Take Groupon as an example. Groupon wants me on their distribution list, so they can send me daily deals. The ad above is much more exciting than today’s actual deal. Looking at it, I’m left wondering what kinds of deals I might be missing out on. Groupon’s advertising is anything but naïve. Their ads not only have higher click through rates than factual ads, they probably lead to more conversions.
It always ends with a but …
While relevancy and truthfulness in your ad copy may not improve the performance of ads, relevancy in ad targeting does. One of the things I love most about Facebook ads is the ability to target locations, demographics and interests. These are powerful tools for audience building. For example, if you know your customers tend to live in the suburbs and listen to NPR, target those groups.
In summary, let your right (creative) brain take over when creating ads, and try to strike an emotional chord, but put your left (logical) brain in charge when targeting.
Have you tried Facebook advertising? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments!
With the cacophony of information available to us these days, it is hard to know how to use that information to make good decisions. That’s definitely the case with website analytics. Even though I do this all day for a living, I sometimes look at the stats for our site and think, now what? To combat data fatigue, we identify questions we can answer with data, as well as patterns of data analysis we can use to answer the questions.
Here’s an example: is the organic search engine traffic to your site coming from people who already know about you, or people who are discovering you through search? There’s different value to these two types of website users, and they have different information needs. And if you don’t have much of the latter, you may be missing out on business opportunities.
People who know your business and use Google or Bing to search for your brand, product name, or the names of your key staff have already been introduced to you: that last trade show you attended, the magazine ad you took out, or your reputation and years in business are paying off. These users want to narrow in on what you provide and how to reach you. They’re closer to buying, and you need to do less to convince them. These search keywords and the website visitors they produce are sometimes referred to as “branded”.
People who don’t already know you may find your website by searching for keywords related to the product or service you sell. These folks might never have heard of you, and don’t know if you’re right for them. They take a little more cultivating to become purchasers, but they represent new business opportunity for you. We’ll call these searches/visitors “non-branded”.
With 15 minutes in Google Analytics, you can see where you stand by using Advanced Segments. We’ll take a look at your site’s visitors and see what % of these users came from branded keywords vs. non-branded keywords.
From the Dashboard page, click on Advanced Segments.
Click “Create a new advanced segment.” Next, from the left column, under Traffic Sources, select keyword and drag it over to the “dimension or metric” space.
Then for condition, select “contains”, and type in your business name. Click “add ‘or’ statement”, drag Keyword over again, select “contains”, and type in other words unique to your business–product names, key personnel, and misspellings of those.
When you’re done adding conditions, down near the bottom, enter a name for your advanced segment like “Branded Keywords” and save the segment. Follow the same process to add a second advanced segment for “Non-Branded Keywords”, except: for each keyword, click “add ‘and’ statement” and “does not contain” instead of “contains”.
To use the segment from any report, go to the Advanced Segments button and click on “Branded Keywords” and “Non-Branded Keywords.” Start with the dashboard, and you’ll see the visitors from each segment in your time period. If you are seeing more users from Branded Keywords than Non-Branded Keywords, most of your organic website visitors probably already know who you are. This means you have an opportunity to get more traffic from non-branded keywords describing your product or service category. Good next steps to do that are to optimize your Google Place Page and optimize your website for keywords related to your business topics. (Note that Branded Keywords and Non Branded Keywords will never equal 100% of your traffic, since you get traffic from places without keywords, like when people directly type in your website URL.)
Are there reports you’ve created to better understand your web traffic? We’ve love to hear about them below.
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